Woodbridge overcomes obstacle to place third

Woodbridge overcomes obstacle to place third

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Woodbridge overcomes obstacle to place third

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SOUTH PLAINFIELD

In addition to the scorching heat and the mental toll of competing in multiple events, the Woodbridge High School girls 4×400 relay team also had to overcome the loss of one of their top performers at Saturday’s NJSIAA State Group track and field championships at Jost Field.

With sophomore Brittany Gasser sidelined due to an injury, the Barrons rallied by making up two positions in the final lap, finishing third in the Group III 4×400 with a final time of 3:54:89.

“I’m more than satisfied,” said head coach Jesse Angatia. “They had to break 4 minutes, which is our goal. The splits were :59, :56, :60, and :58, which is amazing considering the stuff they just did. Third place was better than we expected because we had replacements, but we’re happy with that.”

Temi Odukale, Gasser’s substitute, did an admirable job filling in for her teammate. Odukale handed the baton off to Ellie Yepez, who already had clinched spots in Wednesday’s Meet of Champions in both the 100-meter and 400-meter events. Kandice Feliciano followed Yepez, and although Feliciano kept a good pace, Woodbridge found themselves in fifth when McKenna Coakley took over.

Coakley, who will join Yepez in the 400-meter final, burned past two of her opponents to get her quartet into the top-three.

“I know McKenna is our strongest runner — she usually pulls it out,” Angatia said. “In the second lap, I was a little worried, because mentally I didn’t know if Ellie could do it, but she came from last to first. The other two runners — Kandice got passed but she still had a good time, and McKenna did work.”

While Woodbridge could not have been more pleased placing third, Rahway’s Emmanuel Atilola remains hungry after missing out on the Group III long-jump title by half of an inch. With a mark of 22-3.50, Atilola was just barely outleapt by Moorestown’s Sidney Ruffin.

“I live to see another week and get ready for Meet of Champs,” he said. “I definitely feel like I can win it all. I just got to go back, prepare, take care of my body, and get ready mentally and physically.”

Atilola did not use the heat as an excuse, revealing both pros and cons of dealing with temperatures that reached 90 degrees.

“It’s real hot today, so it kind of makes your body tingle and your feet get hot. It’s also good too, because it helps your muscles get loose and relax.”

Another prominent athlete on Saturday was one of South Plainfield’s own, as senior Ramsey Abdeljaber placed third in the Group III shot put one day after going for fifth in the discus. Abdeljaber, who missed the Meet of Champs last year in the shot put event by a quarter of an inch, will be quite a busy man come Wednesday.

“My main goal was to get a personal best, and that didn’t happen,” said Abdeljaber, who threw for a distance of 54-2.25. “But I got third, I’m advancing, and I have another chance at it. I wasn’t as nervous today as I was (on Friday). It felt good in the circle.”

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